ENERGY POVERTY IN DEVELOPED COUNTRIES:
EUROPEAN LESSONS FOR US, US LESSONS FOR EUROPE?
International Association for Energy Economics:
Energy challenge and environmental sustainability
September 11, 2012
This paper describes the impact on the poor of volatile and rising energy prices worldwide and the Massachusetts Model to combat poverty through energy policy that helps meet the home energy needs (heating and electricity) of low-income households. We compare the Massachusetts Model to similar efforts in other developed economies:
· Other US states,
· Western Europe, and
· Eastern Europe.
We observe fundamental similarities in the approach to low-income home energy needs, but wide variation in the scale and scope of programs across the US as well as across Europe. This paper is a high-level effort to describe and explain the similarities and variations and to suggest some lessons that might be learned therefrom. We discuss issues of federalism, the role of past and current political consensus on underlying values, how income levels and income gaps affect what is practical to achieve, the role of climate policy in addressing low-income needs and of narrow economics in addressing climate challenges, and some means for developing appropriate programs in specific places.
Programs to help low-income households keep their lights on and stay warm or cool vary greatly across US states and European nations. Such elements as identification and certification of low-income households, source and stability of funding, low-income pricing, cash assistance, limiting payments due, restrictions on termination of service, and provision of energy efficiency (including such issues as comprehensiveness) are handled in different ways with varying degrees of success.